June 24, the morning of my wedding to Lynn, I awoke to rising song of a Swainson’s Thrush, a sound I’d come to associate with Point Reyes. On my parent’s property, the lush green of the forest was broken up by a rainbow of flowers, but tall stalks with delicate rows of hanging pink bells – foxglove – caught my eye.
That bird song and those flowers would follow Lynn and me as we worked our way up through Oregon, Washington, Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast on our month-long honeymoon – the latter occasionally standing six-foot tall and smacking me in the face as we road through them on Bellingham’s Galbraith mountain bike trails.
It’s safe to say this has been the best summer of my life. Our wedding was all I could ask for, and our honeymoon was a dream trip. Sure, it was stressful planning the wedding and the nearly 3,000-mile trip immediately after, but Lynn deserves most of the credit for both.
After about seven hours on trusty old I-5 North in the flying green toaster (my Honda Element), our first stop was Ashland, Oregon. I’d like to tell you the below view back to Mt. Shasta was from our campsite – but while I found out the Mt. Ashland campground was open – I missed the fine print that said that the road beyond where I took this photo to the campground was closed.
Looking at Shasta from Mt. Ashland.
Instead, we pitched our tent, strung our hammock and settled into the lower elevations of Emigrant Lake among the oaks and golden grass. Mountain biking – the main focus of the trip – didn’t go according to plan in Ashland either. We had the idea of catching a shuttle up the mountain to spend more time pointed downhill, but it turned out the shuttle operation was closed for the week. So we filled our hydration packs, clipped into our pedals and ground up a hot, steep road before turning down Jabberwocky, a big, machine-built flow trail getting a lot of well-deserved attention.
Our Ashland campground.
After a stop at Caldera Brewing and another night in camp, we turned north again, leaving I-5 for the coast, following the Umpqua River west to camp in the woods near Oregon’s famous dunes. The bikes stayed locked to the car as we worked our way through Yachats, poked around tidepools and visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium before camping just south of Newport.
Before crossing into Washington, Buoy Brewing in Astoria proved to be our favorite brewery of the trip, and the drive into the Olympic Peninsula fulfilled one of my long-standing travel goals. My parents bought us two nights at the Lake Quinault Lodge as a wedding present – one of the grand old lodges like Old Faithful or Timberline, or whatever they’re calling the Ahwahnee Hotel now.
We hiked along the Hoh River, and I wished I could join the parties with big packs, ice axes and crampons to see the high mountains of the park. Next time.
I teased Lynn, a North Westerner born and raised, about the incessant sunny weather on the trip, casting doubt on the rain in Hoh Rain Forest. The dense trees, unending fern mats and dripping moss poked a few holes in my argument though.
Crowds and hipster nonsense photo shoots couldn’t ruin Ruby Beach.
My first proper PNW ferry ride took the toaster, Lynn and me to Vancouver Island, and I got my first taste of Canada when the customs agent asked if we had any alcohol, and laughed at my reply of “maybe 2 beers?”
Canadian drivers don’t mess around – only giving the choice of 50 kph in the slow lane or 110 in the fast (when 80 kph was the signed limit), but the drive up the east coast of the island was beautiful, as was our first campsite – Englishman River Falls Provincial Park.
The view driving up the east coast of Vancouver Island.
Provincial Parks on the island were spotless, and there’s no rushing back and forth between claiming a campsite, filling out forms and paying at the gate. A friendly staffer came around, registered us and collected our money – noting our American license plate and offering sincere apologies for our political fumbles.
He didn’t abide by noisy campers, either, strictly enforcing the 10 p.m. quite hours, which I appreciated to no end.
The Hammerfest mountain bike trail network laid right outside the state park gate, pedalable from our campsite. A grind up a loose, steep logging road opened up a spiderweb-like network of singletrack to pick from on the way back down. Our first taste of Vancouver Island mountain biking, and it was a blast – dark woods, soft soil, berms, whoops and roots.
Farther north, the three Cs of Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland was our next destination. Cumberland’s mountain bike trail network was definitely one of the best of the trip, while the sea-side parks of Comox were beautiful when we needed to give the bikes a brake.
Our last campsite of the island was a little farther north still, in Elk Falls Provincial Park just outside of Campbell River. A techy, sometimes overgrown rolling cross-country trail broke up the fireroad up, singletrack down formula we’d followed so far on the trip.
It wasn’t our plan, but much of our trip put us a day ahead or a day behind the BC Bike Race – a multi-day crosscountry mountain bike race with 600 participants. Sometimes that meant we had helpful pink tape to follow in the complex trail networks of the island and Sunshine Coast. Sometimes it meant a trail had just been hammered by 600 people. But mostly it reaffirmed Lynn had picked the best mountain biking destinations in the region.
BC Coastal Range from the ferry
Our next ferry delivered us to Powell River at the northern end of the Sunshine Coast. It was a beautiful boat ride with views back at the glaciated peaks above Cumberland and toward the improbably pointy and dramatic BC Coastal Range ahead. We even saw some sort of whale or porpoise spouting in the distance on the glassy Salish Sea.
The toaster on the ferry.
Freehub Magazine, a mountain bike magazine out of Bellingham which produces some great videos – first brought the Sunshine Coast to my attention. Small, remote communities in lush, dripping woods surrounded by a network of mountain bike trails – it sounded too good to be true.
And while it was beautiful and we got some great riding in, there was a catch. Opening up the Trailforks trail map app on my phone, we were faced with an inscrutable tangle of trails, making left or right at the fork decisions seemingly every 100 feet or so. And inevitably, we made some bad choices – whether it was finding ourselves neck-deep in thorny blackberry brambles, or me taking the two worst spills of the trip – back to back – on maybe the worst trail I’ve ever ridden.
That goes with the territory riding new places, however, and we still had a great time. We also took a break from the bikes to paddle around Sechelt Inlet. A guide shepherded us through narrow passages, around rocky islands with native petroglyphs, over jellyfish blooms and sea stars. We even saw a mink fishing at the water’s edge.
Two more ferries south landed us at the southern end of the Sea-to-Sky Highway up through Squamish and Whistler, one of the most beautiful drives on a trip full of beautiful drives. I gawked at the huge granite cliffs and towering snow-covered peaks just above town, the glacier-green sound just below.
Armored up and flat pedals fixed, we headed for Whistler Bike Park, one of mountain biking’s hallowed meccas. While Lynn was fully in the zone, I felt like a Joey most of the day. I found myself walking some steeps on blues. Blues!
Every time we re-enter America, it makes third world banana republic bureaucracy look efficient, and this time was no different. Oh well, on to Bellingham to stay with Corey and Becca!
Photo by Corey Vannoy
Corey showed me the ropes on a side of Galbraith I hadn’t ridden before while Lynn took the day off the bike, and it was unsurprisingly great. Throw in a visit to Kulshan Brewing, a barbecue on Lake Watcom with Tommy and Morgan and a visit to Transition Bikes (who sent us wedding presents, how cool is that!) and you pretty much have why we try to get to Bellingham at least once a year.
A drive through the North Cascades was also high on my to-do list, and the alpine peaks begged for more exploration. We were both excited to check out Winthrop and its growing mountain bike scene, but east-side heat and smoke from Canadian wildfire prompted us to cut our stay short and head for Reardan to stay with Lynn’s parents.
Lynn in the North Cascades.
The toaster’s brakes were pretty much, well, toast when we screeched to a halt in Reardan. Fortunately, Lynn’s dad’s friend – a mechanic at the school’s bus garage – was extremely kind in helping us (OK, we helped him by occasionally turning a screwdriver and staying out of the way) replace the rotors and pads.
We had a second wedding reception in a beautiful barn down the road from Lynn’s folks for all the friends and family in Eastern Washington that couldn’t make the trip to California, and then hit the road again – pointed south for Hood River.
Driving west along the Columbia, the flat-sided toaster complete with Yakima
sail Rocketbox buffeted in the wind that makes Hood River a kite surfing destination, the transition from east-side brown to west-side green came quick, and after a brewery stop for dinner we climbed up to Kingsley Reservoir Campground for the night.
Our time was running out and we wanted to break the drive home up with another stop in Bend, so we only went for a short ride on Dirt Surfer at the top of the Post Canyon trail network. After a few dirt roads generally wrecked by the moto crowd, we were both amazed by the singletrack – we’ll definitely be back.
As with last summer, our last campground was Smith Rock State Park, one of our favorite campgrounds, and just 45 minutes from Bend. An obligatory visit to Crux, a really cool chat with the guys at Crowsfeet Commons and a walk along the Deschutes River reminded us why Bend is such a special place.
Faced with the end of the trip, I had to remind myself we were heading home to Truckee – not a bad thing at all. Still, I was ready to do laundry, take a shower and head back out on the road. Once you hit the rhythm of a trip like this, it’s hard to give it up.